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Business Storytelling

Have you ever been to a meeting where you watched a PowerPoint presentation with charts and graphs, and it made you want to poke your eyes out with a pencil? If business people would realize that stories, not data, are what inspire people-- they would be less boring. Stories are not only a powerful way of connecting with clients, but they are a useful leadership tool for listening, connecting and taking action. Because they are both entertaining and informative, compelling stories help to create an emotional bond with your customers.
All companies are using social media, but not always effectively. Technology has given us many different ways to tell our message to millions of customers— instantly. Yet, many businesses are losing customers because their methods of reaching them are outdated. If you want to get people to buy your product, you need to get them listening. So, here are good stories to tell to help you establish stronger loyalty with your clients, motivate your staff, and remind you of what you stand for. Don’t let things get dire - you can inspire!
1. Your customer’s story – In my book, The Message Of You(link is external), I call this your “Credibility Story.” This story stars your customer and should be on every website you own. It goes like this:
-Customer X came to you with a huge mess (describe it).
-They took advantage of your products or services.
-Now their life is so much better! They can walk, breathe, save money, and perform like Lady Gaga. (Okay, maybe not exactly like her).
Collect these stories. They are gold.
2. The story of your company – Every company has a mess to success story. Take Microsoft, for example— “We started with our office in a garage and now we sell ‘office.”' Isn’t there someone else who started in a garage… oh yes, Apple. Your company didn’t launch and become an immediate success. You may not have a garage, but you have a story. What helped your company achieve its goals is the greatest story ever told… or something close to that.

Identify the story of your company and share it with your customers. 

3. Your personal Heart Story — Being a CEO isn’t what identifies you as BFD. What will is your mess to success story. And if you think being a big shot Corporate Executive means you shouldn’t get personal, check out Bill Marriott’s blog(link is external). Yes, I’m referring to Mr. Marriott of the Marriott hotel chain. Rather than boasting about his well stocked minibars, he tells a deeply personal story about surviving a heart attack as well as the tragic death of his son. He’s sharing life lessons that inspire and create brand loyalty in a way that tweeting about your towels won’t.
Each of us has a heart story -- a journey from mess to success. Some of our most successful people overcame difficult beginnings. Don’t let messes define you. Use them to your advantage. Remember: you can’t spell “message” without a “mess!”

Judy Decodes Exactly What it Takes to be a Toastmaster World Champion of Speaking

Judy Carter autographing The Message of You 
and The Comedy Bible for Glenda Dickonson
When Mohammed Qahtani of Dharan, Saudi Arabia, District 79, became the 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking, I was in the audience at Caesar's Palace and heard his speech, "The Power of Words." I knew within 30 seconds that he would win.

We ALL can learn from what I heard, especially Toastmaster women. What a shocker that not one of the finalists was a woman. There were no Toastmistresses. And this was Vegas!

Study these 6 Essential Speech Elements of Mohammed’s speech and let’s turn you into a winner.

(Watch highlights from Mohammed’s Speech here.)

1.    Got message and stories? Mohammed’s “The Power of Words” was very clear. Each story supported what he was trying to convey. He talked about a friend who'd killed himself because of his father’s words, so painful and distancing. It became clear that his message was something he was living. It was authentic. What is your essential message that you are living now?

2.     Get Global.  Every personal message has widespread impact. Mohammed worked “global warming” into his speech. Smart thinking! He used a personal experience to connect to larger ideas. Women can learn from this. We find it so easy to talk about our bodies, our relationships, our experiences, emotions and opinions. These are great for starting; personalizing is connective tissue. But, to be a world champion, we must take a helicopter view of our lives and see what we have to say to the larger world. Thinking of your life in terms of where you fit into current issues will expand your message and increase its influence. 

For example, I brought Kimberly onstage during my speech at the conference, (no it wasn’t planned) and asked for a difficult moment in her childhood. She mentioned an encounter with her teacher in 4th grade. I sensed there was a bigger story. Finding out she lived in South Carolina, I asked her, “What was it like to live as an African American surrounded by Confederate Flags?” That opened up thoughts and feelings that she'd kept buried for years and led to her proclaiming a powerful message, “No one should ever be made to feel less than.”

What part of history has affected who you are and, therefore, can be your message?

3.    Have act-outs.” Let’s face it, speeches are not dramatic. They have none of the glitz of a Vegas show. There are no costume changes, no incredible scenery, and no big cast singing and dancing. It’s one person in a suit, usually pants, not a skirt. To strengthen the entertainment value of your speech, “act-out” the people you mention. Infuse them with life and character. In Mohammed’s speech, he said something along the lines of, “Data and graphs aren’t as powerful as words. We will never change global warming by having a scientist show us data and graphics.” He then acted out a boring scientist talking about the data of global warming and the audience fell apart. This is what it means to “Be your story” rather than to “Tell your story.” Show, don't tell. Stand like the characters, move the way they do. Bring them to life. 

4.    Be Funny. A newbie at National Speaker’s Association asked a pro, “Do I have to be funny to be a speaker?”

And the answer, “No, only if you want to get paid.”

Mohammed got a laugh on his first word – “What?”

Doesn’t look funny does he, but add facial expression, attitude, and audience interaction and he got a huge laugh on the very first WORD.

But most important, he wasn’t going for the joke, but rather for his message.

As a comedy writer, I never go for the jokes when I'm doing my first draft. I start with the message – stories and ideas and find the logic. When that's in place, I punch up the material. To get laughs, start by looking for people you can “act-out.” Get a copy of The Comedy Bible to put together a standup act, or use the Comedy Formulas for Speakers in The Message of You.

5.    Gain confidence by performance time. There is only one way to do this: prepare. Practice and get comfortable with your material. As soon as Mohammed opened his mouth, I felt his confidence. I knew I was watching a pro. One of the most important lessons Ive learned from my years as a standup comic and coaching both comics and speakers is that its not always about how great you are or even how perfect your material is, but what you learn every time you get on stage.As a standup, there were countless painful gigs, such as performing for drunks who heckle, working small audiences, having to perform on a revolving stage so when I got to my punch line I had a new audience. As painful as those gigs were, I was gaining the brain and muscle memory I needed to handle any type of crowd. Oh, this is how you do a small crowd, a tired crowd, a disinterested crowd and so on.” Get up as much as you can in front of your Toastmasters group or in front of any audience. Whether you bomb or do well, you are always learning.  That has a cumulative effect and the audience will relax when they feel you're a pro.

6.    Be selfish. Get help. Focus on what YOU have to do to win. When the finalists came out and it was clear they were all men, I overheard a 30-something female Toastmaster comment to the guy sitting next to her, “No women? We need to change that. We have to work together to help women become finalists.”

And the man sitting next to her said, “With that attitude, you'll never win. You’re thinking of helping someone and every Toastmaster man is thinking, “How can I become the champion?”

He does have a point. Women tend to be caretakers, always out to support someone else. That's something we should do for ourselves too. We have to consider what's our message and work on telling it the best way possible. It requires focus and looking inward.

I’m launching The Message of You University in the near future. This is where we focus on YOU. We find your message, your stories, your humor, and help you be your very best.

Meanwhile – please share this blog with people who need it!

With love – Judy

The Comedy Bible  •  The Message of You
Judy Carter coaching & speech writing programs available here.
Contact: judy@judycarter.com  •  Follow on Twitter 

Workplace Humor That Won't Get You Fired

As a funny female business speaker, I gotta say-- Corporate America has truly become humor impaired. You know how it is; you’re in a meeting or hanging out in the office chatting with a co-worker. He makes a joke about an STD, which you find absolutely hysterical. And then, PANIC. What if his playful joke offended Susie Q from HR and you’re accused of workplace harassment and then you’ll get fired and your family will starve and you’ll all die!!! All because of this one joke!
As a humorist and corporate speaker, I punch up speeches that aren't going to be performed at a comedy club, but rather, at an 8 AM sobriety meeting. Goodbye swear words, references to God, and nipples. 
Here are the rules for joking in the workplace without getting HR on your… derriere. 
1. Don’t joke about other people’s religion, race, ethnicity, or sexuality. In other words, if your joke begins with, “A Jew, African American, and a gay man walk into a bar…” stop talking ASAP!
2. If somebody sends you a funny video that begins with NSFW— stop watching ASAP! It’s labeled ‘Not Safe For Work’ for a reason. Others can see the Game of Boobs video and will complain.
3. Play it safe and joke about yourself! Everybody else is already doing it, so join in on the self-mocking fun. That’s not a receding hairline – that’s a punch line. Although, careful not to poke fun at your muffin top while standing next to your overweight boss. She just might not appreciate it.
4. Be a "clean comedian." If you want to tell a few jokes while chatting to your coworkers in the break room, do have a collection of clean jokes memorized. That way, you won’t recite the joke you heard last night at the bar… “So there was this stripper and this pole and…”  Be sure to keep your jokes short. People are busy.
5. When you mess up or make a mistake and someone criticizes you, don’t get mad… get funny. How? By validating just how big of a jerk you are. You'll get laughs and keep your job.  A former student of mine recently wrote me that she used this very technique when a client criticized her work: “After reading this report your wrote, I can tell you're a complete idiot.” My student retorted, "Oh my God ('Gosh' in South Carolina), you're so smart! You figured out I was an idiot in just one minute!  It usually takes people three months to figure that out!” The client laughed. Tension gone. Account saved. 
6. But, do have snappy retorts when people say or do stupid things. Sometimes a great punch line is the best defense for an office heckler. For example, if someone is talking to me and staring at my chest, I'm going to say, "Hey buddy, if they talk back you can have them!" Zing! It makes the point without having to make it even weirder. 
(link is external)

47 Tips For Public Speaking

Attending the National Speakers Association 2015 Convention in Washington, D.C. I learned a lot a lot! To be exact - 47 tips on marketing your speech, youtube presence, SEO, and even what kind of camera to buy.
47 Tips on how to have a career as a professional speaker:
1. If you don’t have passion, you will give up. The speakers, entrepreneurs, and businesses that persevere are the ones that keep going when things get tough. -- Vern Harnish
2. Statistics show that our most productive time is when we’re over 50 years old. (I guess not having sex as much gives us time to get things done).
3. Have a short phrase (two to three words) that describes your business – a clear and concise tagline that will make you easily findable on Google. (Note to self – Nobody is looking for “hot whiny girls”). – Heather Lutze
4. Have a “Think Week.” Turn off your wifi, read, reflect, and take some time to think and brainstorm about your business. - Niels Brabandt
5. Write from 5:00-7:00 AM. After you’ve had your Think Week, you’ll be better prepared to focus on solving what is inhibiting your business from growing.
6. Mentor others. We learn when we teach.
7. Leaders are readers. Always be reading a book to improve yourself.
8. When networking, a good conversation starter is, “What’s on your reading list?”
9. Make a list of the top twenty five people you need to know to help further your career and reach out to them.
10. Never eat alone in front of the computer. Use mealtimes to go out and connect with people on your list ala Don Draper.
11. Figure out what makes you an expert in your field and own it. Lead with your strengths, and others will follow.
12. When going to speak for a client – text them a video from the airport about how excited you are to speak to them. They love this!
13. A professional speaker can’t speak to every sector. Figure out who is your target audience and market to them. (I.e. techies, nurses, engineers, bankers, farmers…). 
14. Be conscious of your marketing success/failures— keep a whiteboard in your office and track your daily sales numbers. 
15. Know your Message. If you don’t know it now, keep a journal of the lessons you’ve learned in life that play over and over again— And that’s The Message of You(link is external). (See Number 5 on developing your Heart Story). 
16. Before telling clients what your speaking fee is, get them to tell you about their event. Then, email them with information on what you can do for them with three different pricing options.
17. Have three options for your price offerings: Basic, Deluxe and Premium. Direct them to the sweet spot in the middle.
18. Make the Premium Package crazy expensive. If they want it, but can’t afford it, ask them what element they want from the Premium Package and add a fee to the Deluxe Package. 
19. Create at least five videos per month for your YouTube channel. Make sure to provide plenty of great information for your followers.
20. When making a YouTube video, adjust your voice as if you are speaking to just one person.
21. Your website should contain your core message.
22. Use Google Keyword Planner to figure out how people are searching for your website.
23. Everyone needs a career coach – reach out to an influencer.
24.  Label your images with your keywords (i.e. HealthcareHumorist.jpg) so they have a higher chance of showing up in a Google search.
25. Phrases where only thirty people a month are searching for with low competition are good because they have a high conversion rate.
26. Find out which keywords your competitors are using. That’s right – spy on them.
27. Keywords should be in the first sentence and last sentences of your website, blogs, and bio.
28. Hire people slowly and fire them quickly. 
29. Happiness levels at work increase profitability. 
30. Humor in the workplace increases productivity.
31. Gather the stories of your family. Once they die, the library of your life is closed.
32. The average viewer only spends 36 seconds watching a YouTube video, so your video should have a compelling beginning.
33. But, the first three seconds are most important. Make sure your audience knows what they are going to get out of watching your video. This is your CALL TO ACTION— be sure to remind your viewers to comment, share, and subscribe.
34. Rather than your phone, use this camera(link is external) to record videos as it has great sound and picture. 
35. Always carry a portable tripod(link is external) with you for gigs. 
36. A good marketing strategy is to send out four different emails to see which one gets the best response.
37. When sending out a demo reel, give clients choices: a short, five-minute promo and, if they want to see your entire speech, provide a full one-hour reel.
38. Establish yourself as an expert by hosting online training courses. You can set that up via Udemy(link is external).
39. Use music in your YouTube videos. (MorgueFile.com (link is external)is a great site for copyright-free music). 
40. Bring your camera everywhere— conduct interviews with experts as you meet them and add the videos to your YouTube channel.
41. Always end your YouTube videos with a teaser for your next video.
42. Create title templates using Flixpress(link is external)
43. Video testimonials are essential for business (and remember to always get a release form!)
44. Video proposals are awesome.
45. Prior to speaking, film a YouTube trailer to promote your upcoming speech or program.
46. Be sure to add SEO phrases in the description of every YouTube video (i.e. sales technology speaker).

47. Rather than just providing a YouTube link, upload videos directly to Facebook so it plays instantly— people like that better.

Turning Life’s Messes Into Successes

Yesterday, I went boogie boarding with a friend, my credit cards and all our money tucked into a new, waterproof fanny pack. That’s right a one-piece suit, SPF 30 slathered body and fanny pack – hot!  After catching a fantastic wave and riding it to shore, I discovered the fanny pack hadn’t made it. It was dinner time and I had no money. A few miles from home, we were hungry, sandy, and broke. No Uber for us.
Source: cc-by-2.0
At first I panicked, but as we began our journey home, we stumbled a walkway with gorgeous gardens. Though I’ve lived in Venice Beach for 20 years, I had never known about this incredible street. Some people we ran into told us about their cats, their families, and their lives. Normally, I’m in a rush and this would annoy me. But tonight, I made new friends in the neighborhood that I can borrow stuff from. Then it got even better -- the fancy hot dog stand gave us free samples!  We got thirsty and since it was on 7/11 – 7/11 was giving out free Slushies! Free! What had been a mess turned into a wonderful life affirming adventure. Plus there was extra exercise. In addition to losing money, I lost weight!
As I wrote in my book, “The Message of You,(link is external)” you can’t spell MESSAGE without a MESS. Yet again, I was reminded that when life doesn’t go the way I want it to, there’s often a gift.
A few years ago, while recording my book for Audible, I stumbled over a word and flashed back to the embarrassment of having a speech impediment as a child. I was almost in tears as the director took me aside and told me, “Last week there was somebody very famous here recording his book. The three days it should have taken took him two weeks. Why?  Because he had such a severe speech impediment we had to do it over and over and over and over. That man's name is James Earl Jones.”
I asked, "What?  Darth Vader!  The voice of CNN?  A man who makes a living by his voice can't speak?" 
"Yes, he didn't speak until he was eight. Because of his speaking problem, we kept redoing it until it was perfect.”
I couldn’t believe it.
Then, he said something very wise, "Judy, we're not successful in spite of the messes in our life.  It's because of them.  If you didn't have a problem speaking, you wouldn’t have put so much effort into it and become a professional speaker. You wouldn't have to work so hard." 
He’s right. Think about it. Some of our most successful people overcame difficult beginnings. The reason he created the happiest place on earth was probably because Walt Disney grew up in an alcoholic, abusive home.  Steve Jobs was adopted, disconnected from his family, and created gadgets that connect us all. Anybody notice that Dr. Phil, who wrote the bestselling book on weight loss, looks a little chubby?” I’m guessing his next book will be "Hair Care Tips for Men.” Or am I thinking of Donald Trump?  
OK… a little humor, but the point is if we refuse to let the messes define us, we can use them to our advantage. Your MESSage is in that story of your journey from mess to success.  When you tell THAT story, it’s The Message of You and lets everyone in on the meaning of your life.

Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.